Half? What does that mean? I probably looked confused for a few moments, but no sooner had Kengo left than an email arrived in my mobile phone. The sender was Osanai-san, and it read:
“Hello, it’s Osanai-san.”
Of course I know that, I thought as I continued standing in place, when another message arrived.
“I’m right behind you.”
M-Mary-san?1 Since I was sitting at the counter by the window, I could see the reflection of the landscape behind me. Although there’s no one who looks like Osanai-san there…
Instead, there stood a person in a frayed, sleeveless jacket, vest, or in any case, some piece of outer layer clothing made of leather and was excessively well-worn. That was the person who looked like a rocker, one of the people I had given a respectful distance to, along with the reggae group. That person was wearing a leather hat, and in their hand was… a shake in a paper cup.
I still had a long way to go to understanding Osanai-san. The general principle was that if I saw a small-sized person wearing a hat, I would think of Osanai-san. The rocker reflected in the glass steadily removed their hat, looked into my eyes and gave me a modest smile. She had a bob cut that fell to the top of her shoulders, thin eyes and thin lips. That was Osanai Yuki.
Without turning around, I returned a light smile to the girl reflected in the glass.
“That’s an extraordinary outfit.”
In response, a question was directed at me from behind.
“You don’t think it suits me?”
Well, if I had to choose, my answer would be an unexpected one.
“No, I think it actually looks good on you.”
“…I have mixed feelings about it. It’s fine, I can change when we get to the shop.”
Osanai-san looked at the seat two places from mine, or in other words, the seat that Kengo had been at until recently.
“Can I get rid of this tray?”
She asked. There were still some French fries on it, but I replied in the affirmative.
“Yeah, why not?”
After swiftly returning the tray, Osanai-san sat down next to me and placed the shake she was holding onto the counter.
“You managed to figure out that we’re going to Berry Berry, huh.”
She gave another modest smile. Come to think of it, the instruction to go to Berry Berry had been hidden in a little riddle.
“Well, I can manage something of that level.”
“I thought that Kobato-kun would definitely be able to figure it out.”
Osanai-san replied with a shy facial expression. Is she happy? That’s a face that I’ve hardly seen before.
“What was Doujima-kun talking about?”
“Ah, he was talking about some drug group. There was one in middle school, right? Another one has shown up, and the older sister of Kengo’s girlfriend is caught up in it.”
The Osanai-san that looked like a rocker didn’t show a hint of interest.
“Ah, the one with Isawa Hasemi-san?”
“Isawa? Is that the girl who got reprimanded?”
“I wasn’t expecting you to know her so well.”
With a gentle smile, she replied.
“You’re a boy, and I’m a girl. We get our information from other girls.”
It takes one to know one, I suppose.
“So Osanai-san, what do you think, as someone with detailed information on girls? Knowing that there’s this new drug group in high school, do you think it could be related to Isawa?”
However, she frowned, looking troubled as she gazed out of the window and sipped some of her shake without making a sound.
…She sipped for such a long time that I started getting worried that she would run out of oxygen.
“Osanai-san… Is it delicious?”
After finally distancing her lips from the straw, Osanai-san raised her chin and looked down at the shake.
“This? You’re asking me if this is delicious?”
She then shook her head, as if to say, “How ridiculous.” So it goes without saying, huh. The shake probably isn’t terrible, but it is quite difficult to satisfy Osanai-san.
Her answer to my main question came in the form of a shy murmur.
“Isawa-san was only put under probation… so they probably don’t think that she did anything particularly bad. However, that group may not be the only one in town, or rather, there are definitely other groups, so I don’t know.”
“Anyway, what is that?”
Osanai-san pointed at the memo in my hand, and I read what was written on it.
“Kengo asked me to kill some more time here, and contact this if I see any suspicious movements.”
For some reason, Osanai-san timidly asked.
“Erm… Is this a secret signal that only you and Doujima-kun know?”
I laughed and shook my head.
“No, I don’t know anything about it at all.”
Yes, I don’t know a thing about this memo that Kengo left behind.
I carefully studied the note.
It was a scrap of paper torn from a pocket-sized notebook. On the front were faint ruled lines, while the back was plain. The character for “half” was written on the front, but was not written in between the ruled lines. It was written in a disorderly fashion, but since Kengo had written it right before rushing out of the door to tail someone, it was not strange for his handwriting to be a little disorderly.
The word “half” was not written in the middle, but was written at the side, as if stuck to the right edges of the note. I don’t know if that has any significance to it, though.
The shake must not have been to Osanai-san’s taste, for she looked out the window with the straw in her mouth and an unpleasant look on her face. Suddenly, she released the straw.
“Can you think of any locations, people or numbers with ‘half’ in their name?”
She asked. Without looking up from the memo, I said whatever came into my head.
“Half… There’s this area called Hanzawa-chō in this city, but using the name of a neighborhood opens up too many possibilities, and I have not been there with Kengo before.
“As for names, I can’t think of anyone except Hanmura Ryou. No, there was another guy with the same surname, Hanmura, although that was a classmate in middle school. He’s never had contact with Kengo, and I haven’t even talked to him in the first place.
“As for numbers, that character means half. Half… fifty. Fifty-fifty. 50-50?”
I smiled bitterly.
“No, that can’t be it, he would have just written 50-50 instead. In the first place, that doesn’t even make up a phone number.”
“That’s not it. You’re thinking in the wrong direction. Kengo was in a hurry, so he wrote it like that, as an abbreviation. There are instances where things are abbreviated too much such that they become difficult to understand, but Kengo did not have that little time left. He thought that I would be able to understand if he wrote it like that, and that’s why he did so.”
But Osanai-san did not agree with that opinion.
“You don’t know that. Doujima-kun might have gotten some amazing spark of inspiration in his head.”
She sipped the shake again, grimacing at the taste.
“They say that the limits of the human mind disappear in the presence of unparalleled sanctity.”
“Of the moment before death.”
“An anastrophe2? And he’s going to die? We’re talking about Kengo here, right?”
Osanai-san sent a glance in my direction, then looked down.
“Kobato-kun, you seem to be enjoying yourself.”
Now I’ve done it, I thought as a freezing sensation ran through my spine. Right, I was trying to figure out the meaning behind the strange memo that Kengo left behind, and that is nothing if not an instance of detective-like behaviour. I’m a petit bourgeois. When a petit bourgeois looks at a note of unknown meaning, they wouldn’t try to find the meaning behind it.
I lowered my head towards Osanai-san.
“Yes, and I’m sorry for that. Of course, I should have just done this.”
Instead of staring at the memo, I brought out my phone. If the meaning behind it is unclear, I should just ask the person who wrote it himself. It’s a simple matter. I’ll just call Kengo and ask him this: “Kengo, I couldn’t figure out the meaning of the memo you wrote earlier. Could you tell me how to read it?”
I called Kengo’s mobile phone. One ringback tone, two ringback tones.
“Seems like he isn’t answering it.”
I stopped the phone call.
“Kobato-kun… You’re so quick to cancel…”
I don’t think that’s the case, though.
Anyway, it’s quite a shame. With Kengo not answering the phone call, I have no choice but to decipher the note myself. Kengo is working to help one female student, and to then end, asked for my assistance. It is only a natural course of action to respond to that request as a responsible human being, and it is nothing to be ashamed of, even as a petit bourgeois.
Editors (Tier 2) : Joshua Fisher, _Maki
Assistants (Tier 1) : Definitelynotme, Rolando Sanchez, empra
Thank you very much for all your support!
- A reference to the popular Japanese urban legend “Phone call from Mary-san”, about a porcelain doll called Mary-san that, after being abandoned by her owner, decides to murder her. For every step she takes, getting closer and closer to her victim, she greets the girl with a phone call. In the final call, the doll says, “Hi, it’s Mary. I’m right behind you.”
- A figure of speech where the normal word order of the subject, the verb, and the object is changed. Here Osanai-san says the main part of the sentence “Of the moment before death” at the end, instead of in the middle.